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Cats, birds, reptiles start moving into SPCA's new shelter

There are more workmen than animals at the new headquarters for the SPCA serving Erie County, but that will change when the West Seneca location opens April 10.

The first cats moved Wednesday into their new digs, where they can hop from window seats to window ledges to watch activity outside in "Kitty TV."

The sprawling one-story building at 300 Harlem Road is where the agency will take care of nearly 12,000 animals each year through admissions, adoptions, rescues, emergency transports, stray lost and found services, animal cruelty investigations and seizures. While dogs and cats are the mainstay, the SPCA also cares for wildlife such as reptiles, exotics and farm animals.

Staff and volunteers are busy unpacking supplies moved from their longtime offices on Ensminger Road in the Town of Tonawanda. At 52,000 square-feet, the new building, located across from Erie 1 BOCES, is twice the size of the old SPCA headquarters and shelter.

"We went from a closet behind our infirmary, to this," SPCA spokeswoman Gina Browning said of the wildlife center, which has exterior units and interior rooms.

SPCA closes Tonawanda shelter Saturday for move to West Seneca

All areas were built with animals in mind, said Browning.

"Everything, down to the doorknobs, was designed to reduce stress for animals," she said.

Workman adjusts the sign at the adoptions door at the SPCA Serving Erie County. (Barbara O'Brien/Buffalo News)

There are separate cat and dog areas in the clinic and adoption areas, where visitors are greeted with a cathedral ceiling. A separate door is for animal admissions only, and there is another entrance for the wildlife center. The pet store is between the adoption area and Lipsey Veterinary Clinic. There are adoption counseling rooms for those adopting an animal, as well as cat and dog behavioral and evaluation rooms. Cat areas include larger rooms with a view, and some cages for those felines that prefer enclosed spaces. There are a dozen wildlife buildings to keep wild animals in the environment, and a separate red barn for farm animals.

The dog kennel area will hold about 70 kennels. The only thing missing are the kennels, which are late in arriving. The last word was they would be shipped Wednesday, and then they have to be assembled, said Gary Willoughby II, president and CEO of the SPCA.

He said there would be crews working through the weekend.

The building is sprawling. Browning said she had trouble finding the infirmary Wednesday morning when Channel 2's Kevin O'Neill was broadcasting from the new building.

"I had to actually get a map to find the infirmary," Browning said.

Mason the bullfrog is in a bag ready to move to the new SPCA location with handler Paula Cody. (John Hickey/Buffalo News)

The late Stanford Lipsey, the former publisher of The Buffalo News who died Nov. 1, donated money for the Lipsey Veterinary Clinic, which will be open to the public at a later date.

There is about $1 million left to raise to reach the goal of the $14.7 million to build the state-of-the-art animal shelter and public veterinary clinic, Willoughby said.

While the staff was sad about leaving the Ensminger Road building, where the SPCA has been for 55 years, employees and volunteers were almost giddy moving in to the large building with its open lobby and extra room.

The West Seneca location will open for animal admissions at 8 a.m. Monday, and for animal adoptions at 11 a.m. Monday. A public grand opening is scheduled May 13.

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